Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. Max Lucado
God has worked in my heart for years on this. He reminds me of people I have, intentionally, forgotten. People who hurt me or offended me. People I didn’t want to remember. People I didn’t want to forgive. People who made me put my hands on my hips and stamp my foot and say, “they don’t deserve my forgiveness!”
When I gave God permission to create a clean heart in me, when I asked, even sought Him, for a whole heart He came in and started rooting around opening boxes and dirty little bags I didn’t know were there.
I have a great capacity for ignoring ugly and painful things. Whenever I am overwhelmed by them I pretend they aren’t there. I push them into a far corner of my heart and walk away. Once I’ve done my stamping dance of unforgiveness, I never look back. Until God.
Until the day Jesus came knocking on the door of my heart wanting to come in and be closer to me. He asked to come share a meal and to be friends. He asked to be invited to the inside of me. It was years before I trusted Him enough, before I was brave enough, to let Him into the place of my hiddenness. I’ve come to see that while I was ignoring pain and ugly, fear nibbled at the edges and made me ignore God’s call as well.
Jesus stands at the door of the hearts of his followers. He knocks on the door of those of us who’ve said, Yes, at some time in our lives. He patiently waits to be invited inside. Waits for us to choose more. To bravely open the door.
Following Jesus into forgiveness is a big thing. As a model for walking in love, Jesus was pretty much unrivaled.
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Jesus
On most days, I am not like Jesus. Oh heavenly Father, forgive my dark heart that does not want forgiveness for my enemies but wants to call down fire upon them instead. That wants to see them pay for their sins against me. My dark heart that desires vengeance for the pain they brought into my life.
And I see Jesus, not raising a sound against those persecuting Him, spitting on Him, wounding Him and bringing Him great mockery and pain.
I hear Him say, “No one takes my life. I freely give it.”
I see His heart, His trust in His Father’s intentions. His trust that the future of His obedience is glorious because He knows His Father’s heart toward Him. And He knows if there had been any other way to forgive the world, Jesus would have been spared the cross.
As Jesus hung on the cross, He forgave all those who had put Him there. He asked the Father to forgive them, too. I believe it was because He saw the Father’s heart for those created in His image. Those He wanted to call sons and daughters. Those He longed to hear cry, “Abba, Father.”
Out of this great love, forgiveness was born and redemption came alive. As He forgave us, as He released our sins from us, as He chose to not hold our sins against us, so we go and do likewise.
Bless those who spitefully use you.
It’s bigger than ‘committing’ them to God because that feels like permission to hold onto a dark little part of me that wants them to get what’s coming to them. Thinking surely God will discipline or punish them for what they’ve done.
When I bless my enemies, I must come to God with an open heart and open hands asking Him to richly pour out His love upon them. Asking Him to pour out His mercy, hope, grace, and goodness upon those who brought the greatest pain into my experience. Only then do I understand the heart of God who wants no one to perish. Who showers goodwill on all.
To share in the sufferings of Christ is, perhaps, to die to my heart of vengeance. To fall in love with the Father and want His love and kindness that leads to repentance to be experienced by those I see as my enemies.
To follow Jesus I must forgive. The Way of Jesus is a path of continual forgiveness of my sins. Of the sins of others. The Way of Jesus leads to life—to freedom from carrying the burden of others’ sins.
God cares deeply about our wounds. We are precious to Him. He gathers our tears in bottles, but He doesn’t see my enemy as an enemy. It is not His goodness in me that cries out for vengeance and judgment on the ones who hurt me. It is anger. It is the voice of pain and injustice crying out to be heard. To be seen. To be vindicated.
Am I not willing to take the hurt and give it to God so another can be set free from the flames of hell? Set free from the torment of the true enemy of God, the devil, and his lies? So another could be led to repentance by the kindness of God in me and through me?
Or must I demand every last coin owed from the one who wounded me?
Am I choosing to not walk into the glory before me but stay in the shadow of the earthly realm where an eye for an eye rules?
The way of Jesus demands purity of heart. At some point, He shows me what I can’t take into the kingdom. Things I carry that don’t fit through the door. Things that bring death not life.
Father, forgive them, please don’t hold their sins against them. They don’t know what they’re doing. Father, forgive me for holding their sins against them. For demanding they pay when Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins.
To fully receive forgiveness, I must walk in forgiveness. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
I cannot walk in the kingdom without forgiving. I think He let me visit so I would get a glimpse of His glorious intentions. Or maybe when I was too young to know better, He allowed me safe passage for a bit. But as I follow Jesus, He begins to speak more seriously to me. He lets me know I cannot inhabit or inherit my place in the kingdom without forgiving people. I cannot hold their sins against them. I am not allowed to withhold forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice brought enough forgiveness into the world to cover us all. If I follow Him. If I love Him, I will see this sacrifice was enough. Enough for me to forgive and bless my enemies because when I was an enemy of God, He forgave me. He said, “Father, forgive her, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Do not hold her sins against her. Hold them against me. Let my sacrifice be enough to make her whole, free, and alive.”
Forgiving my enemies makes room in their lives for God to come in and destroy the foundations of the devil’s work. It allows me to speak freedom and life and light over people, families, cities, and communities.
Help us to be people of forgiveness, Lord. People of patience, hope, and compassion. A living testimony of God’s love. Show me how to pray for all people, that your compassion and kindness would come to them. Show me how to be a person of reconciliation introducing others to Jesus. To Abba Father.
Give me a heart for all those You love but I don’t. The unloveable ones who frighten me, who hurt me, who criticize and misjudge me. The ones who accuse me, even of things I never did. The ones who throw rocks because they don’t understand me or are jealous. The ones who mock me because it’s easier than getting to know me. Help me, Father, to stay nestled in your heart, feeling the beat of your love for all. Help my heart to beat that way, too.
The other day I felt God prompting me to send a web design proposal to an organization that I knew needed a website. I put it together and sent it off to the administrator, I’ll call him Mr. Brown. A few hours later he replied.
“ We are; in fact, currently completing building a new website which we hope to have online in the next few weeks. We will retain your information for future reference.”
It sort of felt like a slap. Maybe it was the “in fact” he threw in there. Or the tinny sound of a canned response. Or maybe it was just me. Rejection is not something I do very well. And really, it was God’s idea in the first place. I wondered why God would have me create a proposal for a job He knew I wasn’t going to get. I felt a bit rejected by Mr. Brown. And as I experienced that feeling swirl around me, then rise up and threaten to overwhelm me, I began to take authority over it in Jesus name. I began to resist it as a dark thought and spirit, not from God.
Immediately after I did that, I saw a picture of Jesus giving me a high five. Grinning and slapping me on the back for what a good job I’d done on the proposal. Telling me how proud of me He was. For the next few minutes, I saw myself throughout all the years of my childhood bringing my schoolwork home and seeing Jesus there, grabbing it out of my hands so excited about what I had done. He waved it about, showing everyone. He put it on the refrigerator making sure whoever was around saw it, and He kept saying, “Look at what my girl did! Isn’t she something?”
I saw that every single effort I’d ever made was not missed by Him. He saw, He loved, and He delighted in every piece of work I’d ever done. He was excited with me when I chose a purple crayon for the grass in my picture at age five. He never asked me why I didn’t use green, as though I’d made a questionable design decision. He just really enjoyed looking at my purple grass.
There was such exuberance in His joy of my work and of me. I saw a kaleidoscope of the school years go by and saw Him excited and pleased every time I did my work. Every single time, I delighted Him. Every time I tried something new, whether I failed or succeeded, He was there, His eyes lighting up, His smile so bright, His hand up always ready to give me a high-five. His excitement was tangible. His feet dancing with His passion for me and every single thing I did. Every single day.
I didn’t know that about Him. I didn’t know that about my work. I didn’t know that each one of my efforts had so much value. I finally, deeply, understood that I am always, every single day, completely accepted and loved by God. And so are you.
“The Lord your God is with you; his power gives you victory. The Lord will take delight in you, and in his love, he will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you, as joyful as people at a festival.” Zephaniah 3:17 GNT
This is an ugly story and this is your warning.
If you are artistic or creative and see stories come to life, this will be icky and you have my permission to walk away before I get going.
When people tell stories, the pictures form in my mind. In color even. The only way I can stop it is to plug my ears and hum a song. It makes it quite uncomfortable during dinner when someone starts telling a blow-by-blow account of their latest surgery. God knows this about me so I was quite surprised one day when God told me this ugly story. He has only given me beautiful or fun pictures. Since this one was so awful, I knew it must be important and I should pay attention. It is an image of death.
The ugly story begins…
I saw a woman whose body was puffy. She had a yellow-green tint to her skin. I recognized she was sick and close to dying. Then it became gross as I realized she looked like that because her body was filled with pus. And suddenly, I knew I was seeing myself. I was shocked and wanted to move away from this image, but God encouraged me to keep looking.
I asked Him what it meant and watched as Jesus stepped up close to her. He reached toward her with His palm up and His hand open. I saw something very small come out of her heart and fall into his hand. He turned and showed it to me. It was a tiny sliver.
All at once I understood that a single act of unforgiveness had infected me with death. The wound I buried deep inside and would not let go of was literally killing me. No matter that what was done to me was wrong. That it was not my fault. That I didn’t deserve it. Or even that the person who hurt me did it intentionally and it was unjust. It was my unforgiveness that kept the disease growing. That kept my body trying to expel it in the way it was designed to do. But I resisted, keeping the death growing inside me.
When I allowed Jesus to come close and trusted his hand in my life, he took the sliver and there was healing. I watched as life came back into my body. As the puffiness left and my flesh became pink and healthy.
God made me see that no matter how small I think it is or how deeply I’ve buried it, some things will kill me. Unforgiveness is one of those things.
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 NASB
Be gentle with one another and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you. So you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 TLB
Heavenly Father, forgive us for not giving you our whole hearts. Forgive us for not asking you to come close enough to heal us, Jesus. Today, we repent and invite Jesus into the deep places of our hearts. Come in with your love and compassion. Your patience and gentleness. Come in and show us where we need to forgive and give us the grace to forgive those who hurt us. Those who rejected us. Those who brought pain crashing into our worlds. We give you the pain, the anger, and the offense that we’ve buried so deep and tried to forget. Make us clean and new this day. Help us to forgive ourselves for not being able to let go and forgive others. Help us to forgive you, God, because you did not stop them from hurting us. We seek you for the grace we need to be people who forgive. Help us to realize how much you have forgiven us so we can more easily forgive others.
For those who have cursed us and who consistently come against us in word or deed, we forgive them and take the further step to bless them. We ask that you would bless them with your love and purposes for their lives. We bless them with your salvation to the uttermost. With your abundant life. With the blessings of their Heavenly Father who calls them and empowers them to become sons and daughters of God. No longer orphans but knowing the God who calls Himself their Abba Father.
Thank you for the power of your love for us that would not be denied, even when it meant the cross for Jesus, so we might become your children and know your name. That we might see we are your wildest dream. Give us hearts to seek you. Give us whole hearts to love you and follow you into your wondrous kingdom. We ask all these things in Jesus Name, Amen.
God speaks softly to me. Sometimes in the whisper of a butterfly dance–so quickly, so quietly if I’m not listening for Him I miss the sound. He has always been that way with me. I’ve never had big, open visions or an overwhelming arrival of an angel or Jesus showing up in the middle of the night. Occasionally, when I lift my eyes to heaven I think about what it would be like to see a burning bush or wrestle with an angel. But mostly I enjoy the simple, subtle way He speaks to me and appreciate the part of His personality He planted in my DNA. The part that sees and hears gently.
Slamming doors and angry voices echo harshly through my body. I have a physical reaction to decibels. There is pain in my bones at loud concerts. I simply cannot go to places of great noise. My condition is not something to be fixed, it is not part of my brokenness. It is part of my Father’s heart showing up in me. To be the best me I was created to be, I need to learn the language of the sound of butterfly wings.
God bless my high school science teacher who taught us observation skills. He sent us out to stake off a 3’ x 3’ plot of ground somewhere in our world and to watch it. We were assigned to record what we saw and told to describe it. How tall was the grass from week to week? What color was the dirt? What kind of animals came and went? How many types of plants grew in our little corner? For months I sat in my spot and watched the grass grow. I saw changes in the color of the weeds and observed the activities of many kinds of small critters. I noticed subtle changes that intrigued me. Stirred my curiosity about creation and the colorful world around me.
Not until ten years later did someone else speak to me about observation skills. Once again it was a teacher. An art professor at college connected me to a visual encounter with my environment and she taught me how to express that experience in a variety of media. It was glorious.
I learned that observation is intentional focus and it was focus that allowed me to see when God was messing with my physical reality. Focus let me notice the soft songs butterflies make when they move their wings. This awareness I have, this wonder and sensitivity to the lovely in my environment is a part of me that delights God. I can almost hear Him say,
“That’s my girl. See how she listens to the butterfly dance? You know she can see color in the shadows? She has sensitive eyes…just like mine. I’m her father, you know?”
Sometimes I see how out of step I am with the world around me. I feel the roar of a passing jet it’s wings loud and painful yet pulling us along. Running so fast in our daily lives we don’t hear butterflies. We don’t see them dance. But we need to intentionally look for them because the One who loves us best put them there. He choreographed a subtle song for each one of us if we’ll just listen. I know He’s got something special, something uniquely You hidden in plain site so you will discover the thing that expresses Him best to you. Go on an adventure today with Him and find it. He’s waiting for you to discover Him and His love for you.
When you get out of the boat there’s only one thing you can do, keep looking at Jesus. That’s it. No looking at the waves. No noticing how strong the wind is blowing or contemplating the storm. None of that. We all know how that ends.
So now you’re out of the boat having a miraculous faith experience with Jesus. Don’t look down once your brain realizes you’re walking on water. Don’t look down because Jesus really does not want you to sink. You’re on the water because He likes hanging out with you. He likes you having exhilarating times with Him. He likes your faith in Him that drives you close.
Recently Jesus saw my hunger as I sat in the boat. Although He’s been calling me to follow a path into the unknown with Him for some time now, I just couldn’t see where the road would go so I didn’t really listen very well. I worried the idea like a dog with a bone trying to wrap my logical mind around it but that road just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Then one day Jesus reminded me of Jonah and where his disobedience took him. He reminded me of the rich young ruler who could have been one of the disciples but turned away when asked to give what he held dear. He couldn’t see how he could live without the only things he knew how to trust.
Some years ago God encouraged me to follow Him to a new and frightening place by talking to me about Nebuchadnezzar and reminding me that if I was going to seek to build my own kingdom it would not end well. Fear of God propelled me. I followed Him. I walked through my fear and into a time of intimacy and beauty I never dreamed of. That journey included meeting the man I would marry, a trip to Spain and Germany, a spiritual discovery of the power of beauty, and my gift for storytelling.
God is not logical when He asks for our obedience. That’s what makes this a faith walk. Last week I realized He was asking me if I truly wanted to follow Him. If I really wanted to choose Him no matter what it cost me. It’s quite easy to sit in the boat and think about wanting more of God. To claim I want to do the bible stuff–heal the sick, raise the dead, bind up the brokenhearted, deliver people from bondage…but it’s quite difficult to actually get out of the boat.
I think it takes something of Him in our hearts to lift our heads in faith and hunger and say like Peter, “If that’s you, ask me to come.” I wonder if Jesus would have called to him to come if Peter hadn’t essentially jumped up and said, “Pick me, pick me!” As I pondered this with the Lord, I saw something new. I saw how Jesus’ heart leaped because Peter so wanted to be with Him and his heart truly believed in Jesus. Peter saw something in Jesus that drew him beyond logic into longing and action. That’s what faith looks like.
I thought about my own seeking. Do I look for ways to get out of the boat? Do I cry, “If it’s you, ask me to come. Call me, Jesus, I’m ready to throw off everything to follow where I’ve never been before. Where it is impossible to be without you. I’m ready to come closer. Pick me. Pick me. “
Or do I only look for faith that makes my life more comfortable?
Yes, I got out of the boat this week and all prayers are welcome. I believe Lord, help my unbelief. If you’re on this journey also, hit reply and I’ll pray for you, too! I know it will be glorious because He is glorious! I will end this where I started it. When you get out of the boat there’s only one thing you can do, keep looking at Jesus.